Probiotic curbs autism features in mouse model
Treatment with a single bacterial species curbs anxiety and repetitive behaviors and boosts vocalizations in a mouse model of autism, according to a poster presented Monday at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in New Orleans.
These mice were born to mothers exposed to an infection during their pregnancy. This in utero exposure alters the offspring’s immune system and leads to behaviors reminiscent of autism.
The so-called probiotic treatment does not improve the animals’ social behaviors. Still, the study fuels the long-standing hypothesis that the immune system affects the brain and contributes to some aspects of autism, the researchers say.
The study provides proof of principle that changes to even one of the slew of bacterial species in the gut can affect behavior, says Paul Patterson, professor of biological sciences at the California Institute of Technology. “Now, how does that work? Where it is acting? We don’t know.”
Many children with autism are picky eaters and have gastrointestinal troubles such as stomach pain and constipation. Some researchers have reported that individuals with the disorder have an atypical composition of gut microbiota — the vast ecosystem of bacteria that live in the human gastrointestinal tract1.
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